The UK does not want 'Hooters'. It is a retrograde step for a country dedicated to gender equality

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hooters, Sexism and the Office Christmas Party


If you're not happy about your office having their staff Christmas party at Hooters, you don't have to put up with it. You are entitled to be unhappy.

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 protects individuals from being discriminated against in employment, vocational training, education, the provision and sale of goods, facilities and services, premises and the exercise of public functions due to their sex/gender.

Institutionalised sexism is unacceptable. Whether in the office or at a work gathering, such as the Christmas party. And if your office has decided to hold its Christmas party at Hooters this year (or an equally grotesque venue) - and you're not happy about it - you've every right to react. Take your employer to court and, if you win, and you could be as successful as this woman is right now.

Directgov, the Government's official website for all workplace matters, is clear on the fact that sexism at an office party in an external environment is just as valid as sexism in the actual office.  The website says: "You have the right not to be harassed or made fun of at work or in a work-related setting (eg an office party). Harassment means offensive or intimidating behaviour - sexist language or racial abuse, which aims to humiliate, undermine or injure its target or has that effect. For example, allowing displays or distribution of sexually explicit material or giving someone a potentially offensive nickname."

If you feel discriminated against because of where your company has held its Christmas party (or for any other reason at work), you should first raise this with your HR department in writing, but also follow it up with Directgov, Unison, or the Citizens' Advice Bureau. You deserve better.

Don't take sexism lying down!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Poultney confirms Hooters is "tacky"

Cllr Guy James Baiden Poultney (Lib Dem, - to give him his full name - is, unfortunately, the chair of the licensing committee at Bristol City Council. And he was one of the three councillors on the all male licensing committee that voted in the license for Hooters: despite the much publicised and highly vocal complaints from residents, police, women's groups, feminists etc.

As we know, Cllr Poultney claimed Hooters offered the city "something different". Apparently, this has since been narrowed down to the lack of "vertical drinking" in the establishment. Which confused us somewhat, as there are MANY places in Bristol offering a lack of vertical drinking. They're called restaurants. Some of them are even near to Hooters. One is next door, The Living Room. Another is opposite. Pizza Express. You get the idea.

Last Thursday (the UN's End Violence to Women Day), Cllr Poultney, in his extraordinary capacity as a member of the Domestic Violence Forum at the council (!!!), chose to attend the photo opportunity at the council house, in order to promote the council's apparent involvement with an exhibition of art and writing by survivors of abuse. He struggled to understand why some of those present felt extremely angered and upset by his presence at such a sensitive event, or why we felt he was a hypocrite. But he's got a MSc - how can he be so blind as to understand such a simple connection?!

In a chatty aside, Cllr Poultney confirmed he had not been to Bristol's Hooters and had no intention of going. "Why not?" "It's tacky, it's not my kind of place," he explained. "So why did you vote it in?" Apparently he had no choice. Extraordinary.

I think he should be forced to go and gobble up a plate of the intensively-farmed, greasy chicken, while some chilly, half naked girls shiver as they bring yet more food to his masterly table and giggle at his every word. Obviously, he should pay the extrortionate bill from his own pocket. Then he'd realise exactly what kind of retro-sexist, misogynist hell he has inflicted on the unwilling victims, sorry, citizens of Bristol.

NB: A typically inaccurate account of the event can be read here.

UPDATE, Friday: See here for the latest rubbish printed by the misogynist Evening Post on this matter. Front page, no less! Absolute idiots.

Unclean! Unclean! Stay away from Hooters in Cardiff!

Well, it had to be done, for the same reason that visiting the Bristol dump had to be done - in order to be able to say we'd been to the sneering pro-Hooters lobby who assume we've never been. Ha.

It was underwhelming, though. The place was packed out as it was opening week, and it is well located opposite a huge music venue and near a big shopping centre, and it's generally much more central than the Bristol or Nottingham branches are.

But there were no whooping cheers greeting anyone as we went in. The queue was out of the door, so surely the staff should have been hyped at their popularity? Instead, the gangs of young men in tight t-shirts and no coats were looking lost and baffled as they hung around the doorway in an unorganised fashion (as the door host wasn't organising anyone to keep them out of the way), and it was 15 minutes before we were begrudgingly seated.

We asked for a drinks menu, and were brought a tatty piece of white A4 paper on which someone had hurriedly typed a few expensive drinks prices. No expense spared on the menu - which was surprising considering the charges asked for average quality drinks. We did look at the food menu, but lost our appetite upon seeing the bare female bottoms and warning signs about putting on weight next to the solitary pudding. Hmm.

After another 15 minutes, still no one had come to take our order so we got up and walked out. No one asked us why. But in our dreary 30 minutes in the company of Cardiff Hooters we observed several things:
  1. No one looked very happy. The staff looked visibly harried and stressed. The customers looked a bit baffled and bemused. They weren't having as good a time as Hooters' publicity machine kept telling them they ought to be. 'Hooters makes you happy' scream the signs. There was little evidence of it from the staff or customers though.
  2. Hardly anyone had any food in front of them. Which seemed odd, as I'd been led to believe this was a restaurant rather than a bar. Maybe service was just incredibly slow, or maybe the boys had only come to look at the grumpy girls...?
  3. The wealth of sexist merchandise was suffocating. From nudie playing cards to bumper stickers saying 'My other girlfriend is a Hooters girl', to the obligatory bikini calendar. Yuk. It's all very visible and displayed next to the door for you to browse while you wait (endlessly) for a table. Not at all suitable for families.
  4. Fortunately, we didn't see any families here. Not one. Which is odd, as I thought Hooters was as family-friendly as Frankie & Benny's or TGI's... like heck it is.
  5. The ladies' toilets had no paper in the dispensers, which wasn't good enough at only 8pm. Especially considering that (despite the 99% female staff), the customers were about 5% female, so there can't have been high demand for them. The toilets were also in a bad state of cleanliness. There was scrunched up old toilet paper on the floor of the cubicles, and there were lipstick-marked and dirty tissues scattered around the sinks. Deeply unpleasant.
  6. Also, the ladies' toilets are situated right next to the kitchen, so all you can hear is the shouting and clattering from the kitchen staff while you are in there. Also unpleasant. And it felt unhygienic having a toilet so close to the kitchen.
  7. We also observed there were no door staff, as in bouncers or security, at all. Surely this was one of the licensing conditions? It certainly was in Bristol. (The guy in the photo above is a potential customer having a ciggie).
Overall, Hooters Cardiff got a big thumbs down for service, cleanliness, effort or quality.  If, after 30 minutes, we were unable to get even a drink, I hold out little hope for anyone ever getting any food to eat there. Sadly, it'll probably thrive as it's in a good spot and Cardiff unfortunately has a bad reputation already for binge drinking and lad culture. But I hope it shrivels up and dies.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Hell Yeah, it’s Hooters in Cardiff

Cardiff Hooters opened it’s sweaty, baseball-bat encrusted doors on Monday, and has since enjoyed a flurry of favourable reports on the Cardiff Blog arm of the Guardian newspaper’s website. Here are some links:

Here’s one, here’s another one, and, oh look, here’s one more. Here’s their restaurant review.
Good lord, there's ANOTHER one. I’ll stop here, but doubtless there are other, older references, too. Yawny, yawn yawn.

All this coverage would be fine if, instead of masquerading as unbiased news reportage, it actually was unbiased news reportage. Instead, while reporting the news (ie, a bar called Hooters has opened on a high street in central Cardiff, and some silly old stick-in-the-muds moaned), the stories have all been given a twist of supercilious sneer towards the campaigners, and a ‘Hell yeah, to Hooters.’ No mention of the soft porn elements of Hooters ANYWHERE. Yet go in any Hooters (or even visit their website), and they're spunked up in your face. Nice. So none of these many stories have actually given readers the full information. Hmm.

Fortunately, the open-minded folk over at the Cardiff Guardian offered a tentative arm to us to put forward our factually-rounded opinions, which we did, after gritting our teeth and visiting the new breastaurant. We were really pleased with this offer and gratefully welcomed the opportunity to finally put across the fully-informed side of the Hooters soft porn business. However, upon reflection, the Cardiff Guardian Blog decided the piece was full of “unsubstantiated points” and did not wish to print it. Oh. (NB: I assured them that every single word was true and offered to send them references to substantiate every point they doubted, but they declined to answer). Oh well.

So, sadly, yet ANOTHER example of a newspaper brand not wishing to allow its readers to know the full story of a current topic. One which is especially relevant in light of yesterday being the UN’s International End Violence Against Women Day.

Suffice to say that visiting Cardiff Hooters was depressing. Not least for that fact that despite it only having been open for four days, neither the staff nor customers seemed very happy. But I thought Hooters made you happy? There were even posters there to tell me so. I found these most informative. Along with the vests worn by the staff that said 'Hooters', so that I knew where their breasts were.

My male friend and I queued among pumped young men in tight t-shirts, and observed that 95% of the customers fitted this description. Despite being primed to expect cheers on arrival, no one received such a welcome. All we got was a badly managed queue, and an instruction to wait. A bit later, a cross Hooters’ girl looked at us then walked off. We weren’t the only ones being ignored. After half an hour of no service we left. Even the seated customers didn’t look like they were having quite as good a time at Hooters as they’d been led to believe. And surprisingly few of them actually had any food in front of them.

Considering that Bill McTaggart, who has the dubious honour of owning the UK Hooters franchise, was wandering around looking like an old man baffled to find himself at a teenage slumber party, I’d have thought service would have been better. To be clear: he was fully clothed.
  • Hooters needs to acknowledge it is part of the sex industry, and take responsibility for the part it plays in the normalisation of violence against women. 
  • Newspapers (whether national, local or online) need to stop printing half the story, and indulge their readers with the full facts. How else can people make an informed decision? Well, that’s what I was taught at my journalism course, but maybe that’s a silly, old-fashioned notion.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Update on Leeds M&S/Hooters action

The wonderful feminist women and men of Leeds did a brilliant job last Friday making their feelings known at the M&S talk at their uni about how M&S had been 'supporting' women for decades.

I'm told: "It went really well and everyone attending the talk was really interested in the Boycott M&S campaign and lots of leaflets got given out. Apparently there was a glass wall separating the M&S people and Fem Soc, so Fem Soc got lots of evil looks from the M&S people and one person from M&S came outside to ask if they were students (because I guess if they weren't they would have tried to get them removed). ... I know it probably won't change much but it's good to show that students aren't just consumers, and that we object to our degrees being linked to M&S (and Hooters). It's good to annoy M&S wherever they go, maybe they will think twice next time!"

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Protest against M&S in Leeds

Thank you to the wonderful people of Leeds who have spotted that a representative from M&S's lingerie department is giving a talk at their university on Friday, November 5, called: "M&S Lingerie: Supporting Women Since 1926". Pah! We know that's not true.

Not content to let this event lie, the inspirational folk at Leeds have organised a protest - read more about it here. And there is an excellent Facebook page that someone at Leeds has created here, which is extremely informative about other reasons why M&S is such a misguided and hypocritical company.

Including a quote from 2009, in which M&S CEO Stuart Rose told The Observer: "Girls today have never had it so good, right? Apart from the fact that you've got more equality than you ever can deal with, the fact of the matter is that you've got real democracy and there really are no glass ceilings, despite the fact that some of you moan about it all the time.” 

Thank you to the people of Leeds. Please keep us updated with your hard work.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Guest Writer: Percy the Sexist Pig Reviews Hooters


There's been so much fuss in the papers lately about this silly old breast-themed restaurant that's opened up in Bristol's recently regenerated Harbourside (a conservation area, no less), that I decided to head down and see it for myself. I just don't understand the hoo-hah. These bloody wimmin have even kicked up a stink in my home sty up in London's Oxford Street, distributing thousands of leaflets suggesting M&S is partly at fault for sub-letting their former food shop to this lovely chain of breast-themed restaurants.

What's the problem? When my friend (the Ugly Duckling) and I arrived at Hooters, we were greeted with whoops and cheers as the lovely ladies from all over the restaurant rushed to seat us. They had no qualms about inviting two farmyard animals into a public place selling food - all are welcome here.

When we were seated at our orange booth, I was pleased to see everything was coated in plastic, as sometimes I like to roll in my food, and plastic is much easier to clean than cotton. I was also thrilled to see a roll of kitchen towels on the table, as I'm such a mucky eater - and frankly, the Ugly Duckling is so ugly that I was glad to construct a paper bag to go over her head so I didn't have to look at her while I ate - I could still see her chest just fine, though.

However, being mere animals, we don't have much money, and found most things on the menu out of our reach. I refuse to work because I'm a lazy bastard, and the Ugly Duckling is too ugly to work so instead she claims benefits, so we scrapped together what pennies we could afford for two soft drinks (£1.80 each) and some wings and fries to share (nearly £11) - we won't be able to afford to eat for the rest of the week now, and can only hope to find some sxraps in the bottom of Tesco's bins to sustain us.

The food was really greasy, too, and I started to feel quite queasy. Ugly Duckling didn't eat much either, and started looking a bit green around the gills. In fact, she went off to the 'John Crapper' (as the sign labelled it) and didn't come back for ages. Which was a relief, as she is pig ugly. Hang on, 'pig' ugly? But I'm a pig and I'm brilliant.

Hmm. Am not so sure this Hooters place is up to much. It was damn expensive for an everyday pig like me, and I had to leave before 9pm as I wasn't accompanied by my mum. I did enjoy looking at Danny Dyer on the TV screens though - I really support his views on how to deal with ex-girlfriends. He's one of my idols. Him and Dr Hootie.